ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SECURE AUSTRALIAN JOBS PLAN
WEDNESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2021
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It’s a great pleasure to be back in the Sunshine State and even better to be able to speak to this audience of hard-working Queenslanders.
In particular I want to acknowledge the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic – the proud Australians whose work kept our country going and all of us safe.
Nurses. Aged care workers. Cleaners. Supermarket workers. Delivery drivers. Contact tracers. Teachers. Early childhood educators. Many of you work in industries that are not properly valued and rewarded.
Despite this, your sacrifice, your selflessness and your care for your fellow Australians continues to shield us from the horror the pandemic has wrought in the nations across Europe and in the United States.
Thank you for everything you have done.
What a pity Scott Morrison doesn’t feel this sense of gratitude.
Instead of rewarding you, Mr Morrison is cynically using the pandemic to launch a full-frontal attack on your pay, your conditions and your job security.
At the same time, he has been doing nothing to stop the creeping expansion of insecure work.
Indeed, fewer Australians can access the basic entitlements and protections earlier generations took for granted. Nearly a third of Australian workers are in arrangements with unpredictable, fluctuating pay and hours. They endure few or no protections such as sick and holiday leave, or superannuation.
On top of that, the Morrison Government is clearly planning to repeal a legislated rise in employer superannuation contributions from 9.5 per cent of your wages, to 12 per cent.
They’ve been trying to justify this by telling you that you’ll have enough super to retire on – provided you run down your savings, sell your home, and have nothing if unexpected events befall you.
For this Prime Minister, the concept of job security for working families is as fair dinkum as when he told Malcolm Turnbull that his job was secure.
We know how that ended.
There is something Mr Morrison simply does not get: For millions of Australians, the essential prerequisite to raising a family, buying a home and building a future, is a good, secure job and enough super to retire comfortably.
Not being forced into a casual job – but good, permanent work that comes with protections such as sick leave, family leave, annual leave and penalty rates.
Scott Morrison doesn’t get this. But I do.
Today I want to talk about the first 8 elements of Labor’s Secure Australian Jobs Plan.
‘Job security’ explicitly inserted into the Fair Work Act.
Rights for gig economy workers through the Fair Work Commission.
Portable entitlements for workers in insecure industries.
Casual work properly defined in law.
A crack down on cowboy labour hire firms to guarantee same job, same pay.
A cap on back-to-back short-term contracts for the same role.
More secure public sector jobs by ending inappropriate temporary contracts.
And Government contracts to companies and organisations that offer secure work for their employees.
Today I have a clear message for the working people of Australia: Labor is on your side.
Labor’s Secure Australian Jobs Plan will give you a better deal.
Job security. Better pay. A fairer system.
A Government I lead will always respect the central importance of successful businesses as job creators.
Governments create the environment that enables business to prosper and create new jobs.
This requires a partnership between government, business and unions.
Good employers give their workers security and a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
In return, good workers give their employer loyalty, understanding that their jobs are linked to the viability of their employer’s business.
Working together. That’s the way to achieve growth and prosperity.
The best governments in our history have understood the need for a compact between business and their workers to advance their mutual interests.
The Labor Governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating are a prime example. Collaboration between workers, employers and the government of the day delivered genuine enterprise bargaining and the conditions that created 30 years of continuous economic growth.
Compare that to Scott Morrison and his colleagues. During their eight years in office, they have been steadily undermining this compact.
They want to reduce workers’ security to the point where bad employers are unfairly favoured, which then places competitive cost pressure on good employers.
They want to squeeze workers because that’s easier than promoting fairness.
It is counterproductive. It is short-sighted. It is wrong.
MORRISON’S PAY CUT
Scott Morrison and Christian Porter revealed their true intention for the future of Australian workplaces in the final week of Parliament last year.
After eight years of deliberately suppressing wages, cutting penalty rates and attacking trade unions, the Government is now using the pandemic as a cover to cut pay and make work even less secure.
Their motives are as blatant as they are vicious.
When John Howard abolished unfair dismissal protections, workers were threatened with the sack if they didn’t cop cuts to pay.
Now Scott Morrison wants to abolish the Better Off Overall Test – and he hopes people won’t notice it’s a plan so workers aren’t better off.
Once again, Scott Morrison is all smirk and mirrors.
We are seeing businesses like HelloWorld, which should be familiar to the LNP Government, pressure their workers to accept a pay cut.
Under my leadership, Labor has been constructive. During the pandemic we have not opposed government measures for the sake of it, even when we have had justifiable concerns.
But let’s be very clear – the Labor Party will never support any legislation that undermines the pay, conditions and security of Australian workers.
Full stop. End of story.
We are on the side of working families and we will always stand up for your rights to secure jobs, fair pay and safe workplaces.
We understand the country deserves better than a choice between a mediocre status quo and an even worse future.
Genuine reform is needed to lift productivity and pay, to boost co-operation and competitiveness.
But respectful collaboration between workers and businesses requires balance.
And only a Labor Government can restore that balance.
As I said when I became Labor Leader, my focus is on solutions, not arguments.
So, Labor is not just going to oppose Scott Morrison’s assault on the rights of working people.
I’m offering a better deal.
The difference between Labor and the conservatives is that Labor believes the economy should serve people, not the other way around.
PROTECTING YOUR RIGHTS IN TODAY’S WORKPLACE
First, we have a plan to protect your rights in the modern workplace.
Labor has always stood up for the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission, to resolve workplace disputes and ensure workplace protections are fair for workers – and that they are enforced.
But when the Fair Work Act was written more than a decade ago, few could have predicted the extraordinary growth in the different forms of insecure work.
To resolve this, we will legislate “job security” as a key objective of the Fair Work Act.
This will require the Fair Work Commission to bring a sharp focus to job security when making decisions about your rights at work.
In addition, we will legislate to ensure more Australian workers have access to employee protections and entitlements currently denied to them by that narrow, outdated definition of an “employee”.
We will do this by extending the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include employee-like forms of work, allowing the Commission to make orders for minimum standards in new forms of work.
The most obvious example of what we are talking about here is of course the “gig” or “on demand” economy – an ever-increasing and entrenched part of our daily lives.
Technology underpinning on-demand services has transformed the way certain services are delivered for consumers. It’s all about convenience.
Anyone who has ordered food through Deliveroo, taken a trip on Uber or used AirTasker knows that.
But beneath the surface we are seeing a depressingly familiar picture: workers scrambling for insecure jobs and agreeing to below minimum wage rates to perform work that’s paid by the piece.
For these big global firms, there’s a supply of workers “on demand”, yet no employment relationship to manage. It’s all so easy.
But in recent times we’ve seen the terrible consequences of a largely unregulated industry that puts unacceptable pressure on gig workers to meet the demands of an algorithm – five deaths on our roads over just three months.
Because of the way the gig economy is being structured, workers are being denied basic rights such as award benefits, superannuation, the right to collectively bargain and access to unfair dismissal protections.
Take Diego, a food delivery driver. He was sacked for being ‘late’ but never once was told that he wasn’t delivering fast enough. Not given a chance to improve. Yet he had no recourse because he’s a gig worker.
Or Rosya, who hit a car door while delivering food on her bike. Without sick leave, she had to return to work too soon after her injury. And then she was sacked because her injury was causing her to allegedly cycle too slowly. Again, Rosya had no recourse, no legal protections.
The problem here is clear enough. While technology has transformed the patterns of commerce and brought benefits, the do-nothing LNP Government has failed to ensure that industrial relations laws keep up with this rapid change.
In their inaction, they have favoured employers over employees, when their responsibility is to maintain a system that respects the interests of both.
Labor will ensure the independent umpire has the capacity to inquire into all forms of work and determine what rights and obligations should apply.
We will restore the Fair Work Commission to the centre of our workplace relations system – as we will also do through the abolition of the discredited and politicised Registered Organisations Commission and the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
One of the lessons that Australia learned last year was that insecure work doesn’t just stop workers getting ahead – it can put their health, and the health of those around them, at risk.
Amid the darkest days of the pandemic, one of the most confronting revelations was how many workers – casuals, contractors, gig workers – had no right at all to paid sick leave.
Far too many Australians had to choose between supporting their own family or playing it safe for the country.
I was pleased to see the Victorian Labor Government – led by Daniel Andrews – take the lead on paid sick leave for those in insecure work.
My colleagues and I see this work as a valuable first step.
And here in Queensland, the Labor Government’s portable long service leave scheme for social and community services workers, campaigned for by union members in this room tonight, came into effect on 1 January.
It’s time for a national approach. That’s why a Labor Government that I lead will consult with state and territory governments, unions and industry, to develop, where it is practical, portable entitlements for annual leave, sick leave and long service leave for Australians in insecure work.
The economy is evolving. Workplace laws must evolve with it.
Unless they do, we will see a further rise in inequality which undermines social cohesion.
This is about supporting innovation and change in the economy, while looking after those workers whose sacrifices make that creativity and dynamism possible.
This would be life-changing for Australians like Reena, a 53 year old disability support worker in Canberra.
Reena has worked for a decade in the community sector, mostly within the NDIS, and has multiple relevant qualifications. Yet Reena has to work two casual jobs to provide for herself. She has no sick leave, no annual leave.
This is simply not fair.
But thanks to the ACT Labor Government’s portable long service leave scheme, Reena now has access to long service leave. We want to find a way to recognise Reena’s hard and committed work by extending this to annual and sick leave.
GIVING WORKERS A FAIR DEAL
One in every four workers is a casual employee.
This is even higher in some industries such as hospitality. Hospitality is the main job for 800,000 Australians. 80 per cent of them are casuals.
As you and I know, the insecurity of this work has real life impact.
A Hospo Voice survey of over 4,000 workers conducted last year found that when the pandemic hit:
Half didn’t have enough savings to cover at least one month’s basic expenses;
Over one third had to borrow money from friends or family;
A third were forced to access their super early;
The same number fell behind with their bills;
And some went without essentials, and even had to access a foodbank or charity just to get by.
Those are the cold, hard human consequences of insecure work.
Real people enduring real hardship.
Indeed, at the onset of the pandemic, workers in casual jobs lost their employment eight times faster than those in permanent jobs.
And yet nearly one million casual workers were left behind by the Morrison Government when it left them out of JobKeeper. Survival of the fittest is the LNP’s core value.
These workers were left behind.
Under Labor they won’t be. I say to them: I’m on your side.
Of course, there are Australians who prefer the option of casual work for lifestyle or other reasons. And that is a good thing. I worked as a casual at McDonald’s, Grace Bros and Pancakes on the Rocks.
The problem arises when the definition of casual is used and abused to deprive people of pay, leave entitlements or job security.
Flexibility must come with security, not at the expense of it. Flexibility must benefit workers as well as employers.
Last year, the Federal Court upheld the longstanding Common Law meaning of casual employment in favour of a Queensland mine worker – that is, “the absence of a firm, ongoing commitment to work”.
The national Government joined the court case on the side of the employer – and now that that has failed, they are trying to undo the Court’s ruling through their omnibus IR Bill.
Under a Labor Government that I lead, we will legislate to create a fair test to determine when a worker can be classified as a casual.
The next element of Labor’s plan can be summarised in one simple phrase: same job, same pay.
A Labor Government will ensure that workers employed through labour hire companies receive at least the same pay as workers employed directly.
Here in Queensland, I’ve heard from coal miners Simon and Ron. They work side-by-side in the Bowen Basin.
Simon works a continuous roster with paid sick leave and annual leave. He gets penalty rates when he’s on night shift. Ron works the same roster but gets none of that – and is paid 20% less. How come? Simon’s directly employed and Ron is employed by labour hire.
As Simon has explained, “Ronnie works the same hours that I work, does the same job that I do, has the same responsibilities that I do… I’d like my multinational coal company to employ Ron directly as they employ me. That would be fair.”
And of course, it’s not just the mining industry. It is all too common for casual and labour hire workers to be paid lower minimum hourly rates than permanent employees.
A 2018 ACTU study based on ABS data that found that 1 in 3 casual employees said they didn’t receive a casual loading.
As I said, there is a very simple principle to apply here: if you work the same job, you should get the same pay.
A Labor Government will write that principle into law.
We will also limit the number of consecutive fixed term contracts an employer can offer for the same role.
Fixed term contracts have a valid part to play in the modern workplaces, especially for projects on a clear timetable, or when used to cover for someone on parental leave.
What’s not right is when employees are put on an endless treadmill of fixed-term contracts by employers who want to avoid giving them permanent status.
That lack of “permanent” status prevents people from basic, important things like securing a home loan. Even if they’ve been with their employer for years.
There is a simple fix. We will legislate for fixed term contract limits for the same role of 24 months or no more than two consecutive contracts, whatever comes first.
In future, once that limit is reached, the employer will be required to offer a permanent position – either part time or full time.
WALKING THE TALK ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS
When it comes to fairness in the workplace, the Commonwealth has a responsibility to lead by example.
But if you want an idea of what Mr Morrison has in mind for Australian workers – have a look at how his Government treats its own employees in the public service.
We will call time on the relentless outsourcing, off-shoring and short-term contracting that has undercut the capacity of departments to do their jobs and undermined the frontline services Australians rely on.
It wastes large amounts of taxpayers’ money as well as being unfair for workers.
We will conduct an audit of employment within the Australian Public Service and, as a model employer, take steps to create more secure employment where temporary forms of work are being used inappropriately.
A Department of Veterans Affairs labour hire worker recently told their union that:
“I have been a casual for five years and now I have to reapply for my job because the company that employs me has lost its contract with DVA. If I don’t get employed I’ll have no redundancy pay or any leave paid out. If the new contractor employs me then it just shows I’m not a casual. This sort of thing is happening to more of us all the time. We are doing permanent work and should have secure jobs.”
He is right.
And Labor will ensure that when the Commonwealth Government purchases goods and services it upholds these same values by supporting bids from companies and organisations that are themselves providers of good, secure jobs.
We will set a standard – and we will uphold that standard in all our dealings.
And finally, let me make this clear and unambiguous: Labor will fight to defend the increase in the super guarantee to 12 per cent.
It’s legislated. It’s needed. People deserve it.
If Scott Morrison wants to stop it and force you into hardship in your retirement, he’s in for one hell of a fight.
Superannuation is designed to give people the security in retirement that Australian workers deserve.
The next federal election will be a contest between two very different visions for the future of Australia.
A battle for the things which matter most to the Labor Party I lead, and to millions of Australians.
Good, secure jobs.
Today’s plan builds on my Budget Reply in which I set out measures to create jobs and a Future Made in Australia.
Today’s plan speaks to more than a century of Labor values – and my own lifetime as an advocate for working people.
But – above all – today’s plan is about our future.
It’s about the Australia we want to emerge from the chaos and crisis of last year.
The task of national reconstruction must recognise and reward the millions of people whose hard work drives the success and prosperity of our country.
It must deliver a greater sense of security for those who need it most – and it must deliver a deeper level of confidence for families looking to their place in a rapidly changing economy.
Australian families deserve greater security in the workplace.
As I said earlier, I understand that without successful businesses we don’t get job growth.
I’m impressed by the flexibility and innovation shown by Australian businesses as they have adjusted to technological change.
But the current Government has failed to deliver on its responsibility to ensure that workplace laws have evolved at the same pace as changes in patterns of commerce.
These laws can be adjusted in ways that benefit both employers and employees.
But only a Labor Government can make those adjustments to restore the balance of fairness.
And that is because we understand the nature of the compact between workers and employers. It’s a two-way street.
If the interests of both sides are recognised, they can move forward together to pursue their mutual interests of security and prosperity.
Workers and their employers have common interests.
We have a fight ahead of us in the Parliament, a fierce contest to defeat the worst workplace changes since John Howard’s WorkChoices, which were soundly rejected by the Australian people more than a decade ago.
But that is not enough.
Resistance to bad change is the job of Labor oppositions.
Finding solutions to the big challenges – and implementing them – is the mission of Labor governments.
It’s why I want to be Prime Minister.
To create good, secure jobs.
To protect and advance fair pay and decent conditions.
To make sure the laws of this country reward the efforts and serve the interests of the Australian people who turn up day in day out, motivated by an aspiration to build a better life for themselves, their families, their communities and their nation.
I say to Australian workers: I’m on your side.
No-one left behind. No-one held back.
That’s the Labor way.